#1 In His Own Dream
Unlike most of the blues men he learned his craft from in the late fifties, Butterfield did not grow up in a ghetto environment rife with racism, crime and poverty, he grew up in the leafy cosmopolitan Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park. He studied classical flute, was surrounded by art, and the benefit of opportunities. It was only because of its proximity to the surrounding ghetto neighborhood known as the south side he ended up being one of the first white kids to serve an apprenticeship with some of the greatest post war blues artists America has ever produced. He regularly spent face time with people like Muddy Waters, Jame Cotton, Little Walter, Jr. Wells, Otis Rush and a host of other Chicago blues luminaries.
Butterfield's first experience with real blues was around fifteen years of age when he watched Muddy Waters perform Mannish Boy in a south side bar. It was this experience that set him on his journey to become a blues man. By the early sixties, he was well known among the university of Chicago crowd, but he didn't achieve national and then international attention until after he performed at the July 1965 edition of The Newport Festival.
Butterfield's band The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were not a featured act at the festival, but the weekend help to catapult them into international consciousness. They were only presented on a very small stage while festival goers entered the grounds, but there were two important events that weekend that changed the trajectory of both his career and popular music.
Firstly, as a background note, the folk revival of the late fifties and early sixties were coming to an end and the 'old guard' were still clutching to their old ideas about folk music. These 'folk purists' lead by people such as Pete Seeger and Alan Lomax were generally politically left leaning but quite conservative when it came to folk music. They thought of the music as more a history lesson instead of an active art form and were quite rigid when it came to both the performance of material and the instrumentation of that material. They wanted it to be acoustic and played as close to the original as possible. But they were outgunned. The folk purists didn't seem to believe any white artist could authentically interpret blues. It was a a case of reverse racism. This attitude would plaque Butterfield for most of career. He was falsely accused of only 'aping' Little Walter or not being an authentic exponent of blues because of his race.
The baby boomers were coming of age by 1965 and they wanted music that resonated with their lives not the previous generations. The Rock and roll of the fifties had become stale and had morphed into rock with a new generation of artists like the Beatles and Rolling Stones coming over in what the press labeled 'the British Invasion'. The 'new' music used some of the folk chord progression but it was louder, faster and most of all it was theirs. Even the emperor of folk revival Bob Dylan could see and hear the changes.
So the old guard saw Butterfield with his abrasive interpretations of blues as a blatant affront to the old ways. When The Paul Butterfield Blues Band appeared at a workshop the introduction from the 'old guard' was less than complementary. After all, in their minds they saw a young white middle class man of 23 years of age who had the temerity to call his band a blues band and claim to be able to play real blues only at rock tempos.
Little did these self appointed members of the folk intelligentsia know that Butterfield's band was racially diverse with a couple of south side journeymen in the rhythm section and everyone else had spent more time learning from the masters than most of the people in the whole folk movement. three white guys who had apprentice with some of the greatest post war urban blues artists in America. It could be argued that that event was both the beginning of the end for the folk revival and the launching of Butterfield's profile as a trailblazer.
There was a new generation of fans who wanted folk to change with the birth of rock. They wanted music to be played louder, faster and reflecting the new sounds of British bands like the the Rolling Stones and Beatles. So when Butterfield's electric band appeared at a workshop the introduction from the 'old guard' was less than complementary. After all, in their minds they saw a young white guy of 23 years of age who had the temerity to call his band a blues band and play blues at rock tempos. Little did these self appointed members of the folk intelligentsia know that Butterfield's band was made up of journeymen with a rhythm section and three white guys who had apprentice with some of the greatest post war urban blues artists in America. It could be argued that that event was both the beginning of the end for the folk revival and the launching of Butterfield's profile as a trailblazer.
In October of that year, his first album, "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band" was released and thousands of mostly white kids picked up electric guitars and harmonicas to form their own blues band in an effort capture that energy. This is pivitol where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had come ot America promoting Chess records artists like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, Butterfield knew all of these guys, had personal relationship with them and served an apprenticeship with them. He was playing authentic blues, taking the dying music to its next logical stage of growth and he was showing young white kids that they could do the same thing.
There is a problem with blues music, the subject matter is very adult and the listener needs life experience to capture its essence. This is a problem for record labels as their audience will tend to be young people with curiousity, young people who want to pretend to have life experience but don't and adults who know about infidelity, divorce etc. The bottom line is that blues doesn't sell very well in the all important 16 to 24 market and never has. When Butterfield named his band The Paul BUtterfield Blues Band, it was a brash statement in a an effort to in the door, but once established it was a marketing label which didn't reflect the content.
The first album was a collection of blues standards played loud at rock tempo with a some original material like Born In Chicago, Our Love is Driftin' thrown into the mix but by the second album Buttefield had moved on. He was now exploring hard bop jazz and long instrumentals in East West. His band was no longer a 'blues band' But Elektra, owned his brand and logo